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Kenneth Sawyer Goodman papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Goodman

Scope and Content of the Collection

Primarily Goodman's works, plays, poems, and short stories in manuscript, typescript, and published form.

Some plays are represented in several drafts, showing changes and edits in the development of the work. There are drafts of several plays written with Ben Hecht, including The Wonder Hat, The Hero of Santa Monica, and The Egg and the Hen. Also of note is a photoplay written with John T. McCutcheon and produced by the Casino Club, filmed, in part, in Lincoln Park. Personal materials include a small amount of correspondence, mementos, two diaries, pen and ink drawings, many of which appeared in the Princeton Tiger, and theatre programs and reviews. Photographs are mostly of Kenneth Sawyer Goodman in portraits and snapshots with friends and family. The collection also includes some realia, including wood printing blocks, military mementos, scrapbooks from the Hill School and Princeton, and other personal items. A scrapbook of theatrical memorabilia contains programs, photographs, letters and clippings pertaining to Goodman's stage productions at theatres such as the Students' League at the Art Institute, the Players' Workshop, and the Fine Arts Theatre.

Numbers in brackets correspond to a bibliography compiled by Dennis Batory Kitsz and published by the Newberry Library in 1983.


  • Creation: 1883-1971
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-1917



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Kenneth Sawyer Goodman papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Kenneth Sawyer Goodman papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Kenneth Sawyer Goodman

Chicago playwright known for his work in the Little Theatre movement, son of lumber magnate William O. Goodman.

Kenneth Sawyer Goodman was born on September 19, 1883. He was the only child of William O. Goodman and Erna Malvina Sawyer. He grew up on Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Greenwood Avenue and attended school at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and then Princeton. While at Princeton he served as editor on both the Nassau Literary Magazine and the Princeton Tiger, where he contributed short stories and illustrations. He also wrote poetry during this time, but Princeton Dean Christian Gauss, who became a mentor to Goodman, steered him in the direction of playwriting.

After graduating from Princeton in 1906, Goodman entered the family lumber business. He continued to write plays, and became involved in the Little Theatre movement that was developing in Chicago in the early 1900s. The movement sought to produce more authentic, experimental work, and featured amateur actors and playwrights. From 1910 to his death Goodman wrote, directed, and acted in numerous theatrical productions in Chicago. He collaborated on several plays with Ben Hecht, then working at the Chicago Daily News, and also noted theatre directors Thomas Wood Stevens and B. Iden Payne. Goodman's most well known play was The Game of Chess, which has appeared in several anthologies. His one-act plays covered many genres from light comedy to melodrama to social criticism. Although he continued to work in the Goodman lumber business during those creative years, he began to formulate plans for a theatre which would combine a repertory company with a dramatic arts school with faculty made up of actors in the company.

Goodman married Marjorie Robbins in 1912 and they had two daughters, Kay and Marjorie Sawyer Goodman. During World War I, Goodman was a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve Force, and was a senior aide to Captain William A. Moffett, commandant of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. In 1918 while attending a football game in Annapolis with Moffett, he contracted influenza, and died later at the home of his parents. In tribute, his father in 1922 established the Goodman Theatre, which opened in 1925 as part of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is now an independent entity. The drama school affiliated with the Goodman Theatre was acquired by DePaul University in 1978.


5 Linear Feet (9 boxes and 4 scrapbooks)


Works and personal materials of Chicago playwright Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, including manuscript, typescript, and published plays, poems, and short stories, correspondence, drawings, diaries, and programs from theatrical productions, photographs, and mementoes, including wood printing blocks, military items, and scrapbooks.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Works, 1900-1971, Bulk, 1900-1919
Boxes 1-5
Series 2: Personal, 1883-1921
Boxes 6-8
Series 3: Photographs, approximately 1884-approximately 1919
Box 8
Series 4: Realia and Scrapbooks, approximately 1900-1952
Box 9, Volumes 1-4

Collection Stack Location

1 20 4, 1 30 1


Gift, Marjorie S. Graff, 1976-1977.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen, 2010.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Kenneth Sawyer Goodman papers, 1883-1971, bulk 1900-1917
Lisa Janssen
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States